Though few could have predicted it when it was first announced, 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a launching pad for one of Fox's most successful film franchises this decade. After Rise won over critics and audiences to the tune of $481.8 million worldwide (on a $93 million budget), sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was an even bigger hit. Released in 2014 to widespread acclaim, the second movie in the rebooted series brought in $710.6 million globally. Anticipation is now high for War for the Planet of the Apes, which is due in theaters next summer.
It's true that War is essentially the third installment in a trilogy starring Andy Serkis as ape leader Caesar, but in the modern age of franchise building, it's hardly being seen as the last. Director Matt Reeves was at New York Comic-Con to promote War, where he revealed to us that the series could continue even after Caesar's story is done. Now, the filmmaker has taken things one step forward by saying he's already brainstorming concepts for future movies.
In a interview with /Film, Reeves and producer Dylan Clark stated, "We absolutely have ideas about where it goes," explaining that the notion the audience knows the ultimate end point (the world seen in the original Planet of the Apes film) is the best part of working on the new films. Said Reeves:
"Because we know that that’s the ending, that it becomes Planet of the Apes, the cool thing about what was started in Rise is, that it’s no longer about what happens. It’s about how it happens. And stories about how are always about character and psychology. So in our minds, the idea that’s the end of the story gives us the chance to tell an epic saga that leads from where Caesar began in Rise to that world. It’s not about getting there and then redoing that story. We think it’s like a great Russian novel or something, and it’s all about following Caesar on that journey and the other apes as it builds along that way.
"And you know the ending, but what you do know is also that the world is not that world. So how did it change? Caesar’s apes are not like the apes in the Planet of the Apes, right? They’re very brutal to the humans. That’s not what’s going on, so how did that happen? And you know that Cesar had such integrity, and that he has this sort of sense of right and wrong, of his morality, yet you watch that be challenged. He ends up having to kill one of his own. All of those things give us a chance to explore human nature and do it in a way that is really fun. ‘Cause these are all, frankly, totally new stories. We’re not doing any stories that were done."
It's refreshing to hear that (for now, at least) the intention is not to simply remake the 1968 classic. These modern films are more about how things got there, allowing whatever directors and writers that come in creative freedom when crafting their narratives. It should be fascinating to see the continued evolution of this particular universe, since the first two entries served up plenty of heady themes and well-realized characters. For the most part, the future is still unwritten and there's a long way to go before the crew of the Icarus lands on what they believe to be an alien planet. Within the context of the most recent films, the apes have only begun to form their own society and are still advancing. It would be a wasted opportunity if Reeves and company rushed things to get to the Statue of Liberty in the sand.
Of course, Reeves did not elaborate on what his ideas for future Apes films were, so it will be up to the fans to theorize. There's been some discussion about movies revolving around key supporting characters like Maurice and Rocket, as well as the possibility Serkis could remain the franchise star while playing a different ape. Since War is still nine months away, it's difficult to say with any certainty where the story could go from here, but it's great to see Reeves is plotting out a course for the Apes franchise. With studios staking out release dates years in advance for their shared universes, it's important for the people behind each franchise to have a plan in place so they can stay ahead of the competition.
Obviously, the prospects of a Planet of the Apes 4 depend heavily on the reaction to War for the Planet of the Apes, and fortunately it sounds like another winner for Fox. The footage that was shown at NYCC teased a serious, emotionally riveting story of two desperate sides fighting for survival in a world gone to hell, which can certainly make for compelling drama. Reeves impressed many with his work on Dawn, so chances are he'll deliver another great film next summer.
War for the Planet of the Apes opens in U.S. theaters July 14, 2017.